Notes about nostalgia

April 10, 2017 permalink

The Making of Rock and Rule

The Making of Rock & Rule

Hey, it’s Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and Maurice White talking about their roles in the odd, uneven 1983 toon film Rock & Rule. The movie itself is kind of lousy, except that it somehow was starring these folks (and their music), and despite Nelvana turning it into a very off Disney / Goofy-esque rotoscoped nightmare.

Possibly of interest for the above-mentioned musician interviews alone, the documentary also has scenes of how feature animation was made in the early 1980s (traditional hand-drawn cels with multiplane camera photography), and some talk about the synthesizer work of Patricia Cullen (who IMBD tells me recorded synth scores for a number of other 1980s cartoons and TV shows).

(via The Making of Rock and Rule : Nelvana : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive)

March 8, 2017 permalink

Douglas Crockford Atari Burgers and Maniac Mansion

I recently went on a dig through the Archive.org Atari 8-bit Manuals archive, clicked on a fairly random manual for a not-exactly-popular shoot-em-up (Burgers!), and was surprised to find that the game was written by Douglas Crockford, well-known JavaScript developer and creator of the JSON data format standard.

This also reminded me that I’d also seen his name on early Lucasfilm Game products — he was the one who had to bowdlerize the NES port of Maniac Mansion for the NES! Go read his Expurgation of Maniac Mansion post, it’s worth it if you’re a fan of that era of adventure game.

Anyhow, I kind of envy his career path.

December 7, 2012 permalink

Portal for the Ti Graphic Calculator

Last week I discovered that the batteries in my late 90’s TI-85 had leaked and corroded, and cleaning it up and turning it on first the time in years I lamented the awesome lost ZShell ASM games that I’d loaded the thing up with back in high school (that was one of the best versions of Tetris ever, right?).

And now, news that Portal has an awesome-looking unofficial TI graphing calculator port. I hope somewhere this is bringing some pleasure and enjoyment to some poor kid sitting in a boring class or study hall.

(Via Ars Technica)

May 5, 2012 permalink

Wang Computers Commercial

The first computer at my house when I was a toddler was a Wang (presumably the 8088-based PC clone?) on loan from my dad’s job at AT&T, later replaced by the equally sexy Olivetti M24. All I remember about the Wang was that it had a letter guessing game called Wangman, and some kind of text-based dungeon / Adventure clone. And years later memories of it provided a good chuckle during an episode of the Simpsons (“Thank goodness he’s drawing attention away from my shirt!”). Unpopular computers FTW.

(Via John Nack)

March 8, 2012 permalink

Boston News on the Morris Worm

[Video no longer available]

A fun Boston nightly news clip from 1988 on the outbreak of the Morris worm, one of the first Internet-spreading infections that caught mainstream attention. There’s much to love about this clip: the “part-time virus hunter”, the scenes of MIT’s computer labs, the bizarre (but maybe slyly satirical?) footage of the infamous Atari 2600 ET game inserted, um, I guess to, uh, illustrate something computer-y?

(Via Dangerous Minds)

March 4, 2012 permalink

The Secret Font of Monkey Island

A fan-made port of the pixel font built into the adventure game classics The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. As a bonus, a separate version is available that is properly kerned and hinted. (double bonus: opening the .ttf file in Font Book reveals that the demonstration string for the font reads “You fight like a dairy farmer!”)

A post combining Lucasfilm Games and typography? Immediate reblog!

January 2, 2012 permalink

Prince of Persia C64

I was very happy to have gotten this far. I had the Kid, the Prince of Persia, running and jumping on my screen. I was able to control it and perform all the normal actions. And it felt right. Timing, speed, animations. Of course it was spot on, it was using the original code written by Jordan Mechner, lifted from its Apple II grave and brought back to life, with a new purpose.

At this point I was sure I could do this. It would only be a matter of months. Oh boy, was I wrong.

From the Prince of Persia C64 Development Blog, in which the author writes with excellent detail about his recent hobby attempt to reverse engineer and port the classic computer game to the Commodore64 (warning: lots of posts about pixels, sprites and assembly language debugging – your entertainment value may vary). The original Apple ][ source code for PoP had long ago been lost, but the game’s creator coincidentally posted a handy excerpt of the game’s design documentation as a PDF on his blog, and many other ports existed, so…why not try recreate the original code?

Bonus: Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner has collated his original design notes and journals into a nice 300-page ebook. Neat! I’d love to have a whole series of these for classic games.

(Via O’Reilly Radar)

October 16, 2011 permalink

Earliest Web Browsers

Ars Technica has up a history article on the early web browsers, a rare glimpse into the largely-forgotten software that beat NCSA Mosaic to the punch but didn’t quite make it into pop culture consciousness (seen above is ViolaWWW, notable for early stabs at browsing history, bookmarks, styles, and even embedded scripting — probably also the first web browser I remember using on my Slackware copy of X Windows circa 1994! </old>).

For all of the developments in web technology since 1991, it’s remarkable to see how many UI features and browsing concepts emerged almost immediately and are still with us today.

September 28, 2011 permalink

The Deleted City

The Deleted City, an installation that lets visitors explore the virtual ‘homesteads’ of Geocities.com, the most popular gathering place on the 1990’s WWW. For those not familiar, the site made it easy for the average person to set up a basic website (tacky graphics and all), and then group it into a ‘neighborhood’ based on the site’s presumed subject matter.

The installation is an interactive visualisation of the 650 gigabyte Geocities backup made by the Archive Team on October 27, 2009. It depicts the file system as a city map, spatially arranging the different neighbourhoods and individual lots based on the number of files they contain.

In full view, the map is a datavisualisation showing the relative sizes of the different neighbourhoods. While zooming in, more and more detail becomes visible, eventually showing invididual html pages and the images they contain. While browsing, nearby MIDI files are played.

I love the choice of music for this demo video.

September 24, 2011 permalink

Lucasarts Adventurer

OMG OMG, some kind soul is posting good-quality, full-page scans of all of the old LucasFilm Games / LucasArts Adventurer magazines! Created at the company’s artistic height, these gems were half retail catalog, half inside scoop trivia treasure trove, decked out with never-to-be-seen-again Steve Purcell art (including single-page Sam & Max comics parodying the major Lucas game release featured that issue). They now sell for an arm and a leg on eBay.

I used to have every one of these, but they all vanished to whatever corner of the landfill my triangular Day of the Tentacle box and Dial-A-Pirate wheels ended up in…

(Via MixNMojo)

August 3, 2011 permalink

Lucasfilm Games Tv Humor Video

If you’re a fan of the old Lucasfilm Games (and the kind of video game nerd that likes this sort of weird find…), don’t let your week go by without watching this internal Lucasfilm Games parody video unearthed by Mix n’ Mojo. Shots of Skywalker Ranch, Ron Gilbert, Larry Holland, jokes riffing off of the “Bo Knows” and “Spielvergnügen” (erm, Fahrvergnügen) ads, and even a song sung on the Ranch’s porch about their adventure games. It doesn’t get much more 1990 then this, folks!

(Bonus: watch for the boxed copy of King’s Quest V on the desk at around 8 minutes in — how’d that get in there??)

July 27, 2011 permalink

MS-DOS Turns 30

Happy 30th birthday, MS-DOS. Thanks for all the memories, whether they were extended, expanded, highmem, or in UMBs.

Sure, you were cobbled together from various other x86 OSes, had features that often felt bolted on, and were scheduled to be “dead” in 1987 (see: OS/2, which Microsoft actively helped develop and then subsequently torpedoed), but you’re somehow still with us today in Windows 7, at least in virtual machine emulation form.

(Pictured above, the OEM box for MS-DOS 3.2, probably from the era when I first started playing around on our AT&T 6300. Photo credit: unknown, but not for lack of trying…)

June 15, 2011 permalink

olduse.net Brings Back Usenet from 30 Years Ago

Screenshot from an interesting project, olduse.net ― Usenet posts reappearing in realtime as they did exactly 30 years ago, a new way of experiencing the history of the early Net. See how things were mere months before the launch of B-News, long before the Great Renaming and the creation of the alt.* hierarchy, and best of all, the introduction of spam is more than a decade away still!

You can use either the browser-based client to poke through the messages, or point your favorite NNTP client to the site and experience it as you would the real Usenet. Nice!

Also, I like this answer from the FAQ:

Can I post to olduse.net?
Your posts will be accepted, but will not show up for at least 30 years. 🙂

(Via Waxy Links)

October 29, 2010 permalink

Segagaga

The handsome logo for Segagaga, one of my absolute favorite video game concepts: you run a fantasy RPG version of Sega, the ailing game console company, fending off rival electronics behemoth SonyDOGMA (at the time, the Sega Dreamcast was facing its untimely demise). A surrealist, sarcastic, postmodern metafiction of the Japanese game industry from the inside, satire on a shoestring budget with a bit of loving apology for what was about to happen with Sega and the business in general.

From Edge magazine’s nice interview with SGGG’s developer, Tez Okano:

“The Japanese bubble burst in 1993 – that was the start of the recession and the economic downturn. At the very same time, the gaming industry was keeping going just as if it was the boom time. In 1999, it was becoming clear that the boom was fading fast for the industry. Coincidentally, we were making SGGG at this very turning point. Near the end of the game, the hero is fired because his company closes, and he finds refuge in a game store near Sega that actually existed! The store manager is Alex Kidd – he was also fired from Sega, when Sonic arrived. The message to the hero is that no matter how bad things look, there is no point in crying over the industry. You have to carry on – just like Alex Kidd, who is working hard.“

October 16, 2010 permalink

Monkey Island Boxing

Know who assembled the retail boxes and whatnots for the original Secret of Monkey Island launch (including putting together the Dial-A-Pirate™ codewheels, as seen above)? The actual developers! I believe that’s Hal Barwood in the red glasses, and maybe that’s Dave Grossman on the left? If you have positive ID’s on anyone in the photo, let me know! The GameCola blog scored these photos of launch assembly from Tim Schafer’s Facebook page, including this good bit of trivia:

In one of these boxes, the developers slipped a five-dollar bill, signed by the whole team. It hasn’t been seen since.

The game industry’s definitely a bit different these days.

June 2, 2010 permalink

Adam West on Videogames

In the same way a painting allows us to gaze upon the faces and souls of people from another age, or a book permits us to linger on the thoughts of great figures from history and fiction, videogames can expand our awareness of the world as it is, was, or might be.

Prescient words from Adam West (yes, that Adam West), in Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated, July, 1983.

(Via 1Up’s Retro Gaming)

January 18, 2010 permalink

MS Paint Album Art Recreations

Album art recreated quickly for the Windows 3.1 era:

The drawings in this collection were made by various users in a discussion forum on the website www.foreverdoomed.com. Using MS Paint, and other rudimentary computer drawing programs, users attempted to recreate their favorite album covers and let others on the forum guess the band and title from the artwork. […] Some gave themselves a limit of five minutes to recreate the most recognizable essentials.

I sort of like these. I’d forgotten the subtle charm of MSPaint’s spraycan, though I’d always envied MacPaint’s patterns.

(Via Coudal Partners)

January 1, 2010 permalink

The Proprietary 8 Bit Processors That Powered

The proprietary 8-bit processors that powered Atari’s home consoles are being resurrected by the Atari History Museum’s Curt Vendel. He’s rebuilding each chip from the fabrication specification data detailed in the original tape-outs he has in his possession, and hopes to be able to crank out brand new replacement chips (the originals have been unavailable to the enthusiast market for years). This looks to my non-engineer eyes like an impressive feat of reverse engineering and history gathering! If nothing else, one can appreciate the high-res circuit scans he’s posted in the discussion thread.

(Via GameSetWatch)

November 28, 2009 permalink

Another World Ported to HTML5 Canvas and JavaScript

Another World ported to HTML5’s <canvas> and JavaScript.

One of the best games of all time, now running experimentally in your browser, demonstrating that the future could be very bright for non-proprietary interactive content on the web. It’s only the first part of the 2nd level (or whatever you want to call the cage-swinging, alien-buddy-meeting scene) and it’s glitchy, but still looks beautiful and smoothly animated (maybe a bit too smooth, due to the <canvas> polygons being all anti-aliased and filtered out of the box). If you’ve never played the original game, an amazing high-res WinXP-compatible remake came out a couple of years back in honor of the 15th anniversary of its original release.

(Via GameSetWatch)

October 29, 2009 permalink

At Home with English: Austin, Texas ESL Public Access Show

“At Home with English”, a fabulous early 1990’s low-budget ESL public access TV course filmed here in Austin, TX, dredged up by the Found Footage Festival. A truly exemplary bit of late-night public access weirdness. I’ve been mentioning this guy to friends for years, always hoping to catch it on so I could tape it. Glad someone’s found a copy, and they’ve even tracked down the star for an interview! This highlight reel’s pretty good, but it’s edited down considerably: each segment was made all the more absurd because they would go over each of the verb tenses repeatedly using the same odd inflection, interspersed with a super-macro-closeup shot of a woman’s lips reciting the vocabulary.

October 19, 2009 permalink

The Complete History of Lemmings We Did Manage

The Complete History of Lemmings.

We did manage to fox Psygnosis now and then, and I can lay claim that it took John White an hour to figure out “Its hero time”. When ever psygnosis did some testing, we’d get back a fax with the level name, time taken to complete, and some comments and a difficulty rating. These were usually aound 3-6 minutes, and some general coments on how they found it.

Every now and again though, the fax would be covered in scribbles with the time and comment’s crossed out again and again; this is what we were striving for while we were designing the levels, and it gave us all a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

(Yet another good link via O’Reilly Radar)

October 11, 2009 permalink

NEMO

The boss from Sewer Shark stuffing his face with spaghetti -- gripping dramaEarly 1990’s gamers all surely remember the schlocky FMV games like Sewer Shark (sadly directed by VFX legend John Dykstra!), Night Trap (widely attacked in the U.S. Senate by Joe Lieberman!!), and Double Switch (starring Corey Haim and Debbie Harry!!!), and probably even get a cold chill whenever the name Digital Pictures comes up. Turgid, not much fun, and costing in the millions to produce, they were supposed to revolutionize the home entertainment business (anyone remember the $700 Philips CD-i?).

The side of the story that I hadn’t heard until now is that those were actually ports by the time the Sega CD and 3DO came around. Originally those games were created for a late 1980’s Nolan Bushnell-produced VHS (!!!) system called the Control-Vision, aka the NEMO (short for “Never Ever Mention Outside”, an appropriate moniker). Special circuitry in the system would allow games to be encoded onto multi-track VHS tape, jumping quickly (?) between segments as players push the control buttons.

Going up against the then-$100 NES, and with a competing video tape game system that already failed on the market (World of Wonder’s Action Max), Hasbro wisely pulled the plug on the NEMO. All of the expensive FMV footage that was shot would only make the light of day a few years later, squeezed down to a resolution of 256×224 pixels, mercilessly dithered down to 64 colors at a time.

October 2, 2009 permalink

Walkthrough

“SOUTH”
“EAST”
“OPEN WINDOW”
“ENTER HOUSE”
“WEST”
“GET THE LAMP”
“MOVE THE RUG”
“OPEN THE TRAP DOOR”

“LIGHT LAMP”,“D”,“S”,“E”, “GET THE PAINTING”, “N”, “U”, “U”, “GET KNIFE AND ROPE”, “D”, “W”, “OPEN CASE”, “PUT PAINTING IN CASE”, “DROP KNIFE”, “GET SWORD”, “OPEN TRAP DOOR”, “D”, “N”, “KILL TROLL WITH SWORD”, “DROP SWORD”, “E”, “E”, “SE”, “E”, “TIE ROPE TO RAILING”, “CLIMB DOWN ROPE”, “S”, “E”, “GET COFFIN”, “W”, “S”, “PRAY”, “DOUSE LAMP”, “S”, “N”, “E”, “D” TO THE CANYON BOTTOM, “N”, “DROP COFFIN”, “OPEN COFFIN”, “GET SCEPTRE”, “WAVE SCEPTRE”, “LOOK”, “GET GOLD AND COFFIN”, “SW”, “U” TO CANYON VIEW, “NW”, “W”, “ENTER HOUSE AND OPEN BAG” “GET GARLIC”, “W”, “PUT COFFIN, SCEPTRE, AND GOLD IN CASE” “OPEN THE TRAP DOOR”, “AND LIGHT THE LAMP”.

From Walkthrough, the 2nd greatest Zork-based rap song of the past couple of years (Frontalot’s It Is Pitch Dark is still pretty ultimate). And yes, I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming Get Lamp documentary.

(Via a lot of gaming blogs…)

August 13, 2009 permalink

The Women of Leisure Suit Larry

From The Women of Leisure Suit Larry. I don’t think I could sum it up any better than the post’s author: “there is a seriously ugly and amazing coffee table art book dying to be made out of this”. Hopefully such a coffee table book would include a portion dedicated to the even-more-awkward non-Sierra attempts at smut like Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender.

(Via Offworld)

August 8, 2009 permalink

Nick at Nite Indentity Bumpers

A thorough set of the indentity bumpers from Nick at Nite, circa 1991. Kind of surreal (and tedious) watching these back to back, but it’s amazing how many of them I remember, and how many were done by well-known animators. This is where things were at in the early 90’s NYC animation trade. A number of these folks would later be rounded up in Atlanta to help create Cartoon Network. Sadly, all of these cable channels seem to have lost their sense of purpose, with Nick at Nite now showing ‘retro’ shows like “Just Shoot Me”, TV Land focusing on reality programming, and Cartoon Network becoming a dumping ground for kid’s live-action.

Related branding regression: MTV International drops the famous animated/adaptable MTV logo in favor of a static mark, and (the horror!) Nickelodeon is moving away from their venerable and innovative “splat” logo after nearly 30 years of it being awesome.

(Via Cartoon Brew, where a number of the folks who worked on the N@N promos have left comments)

July 21, 2009 permalink

ANSI Art Generator from Drastic

Rad, there’s an online ANSI art generator! Relive the glory days of BBSes and dodgy w4r3z nfo files right in your browser. I remember wasting a lot of time back in junior high making colorful DOS menus using ansi.sys and batch files. Better than launching Windows 3.1!

Check it out, make some art: ansi.drastic.net (The drawing program seems to be broken for me under Firefox 3.5.1, but your mileage may vary)

(Via Waxy)

July 10, 2009 permalink

Its Weird to See How Generic the Times Were in

It’s weird to see how generic the times were in 1990: way more acid wash denim and pastel colors, but otherwise the clothing wouldn’t look too out of place at the mall today. The storefronts and water displays still have their decidedly 1980s look, though. ‘90 and ’91 were the formative years when I spent a lot of time at the mall during the summer, bothering the folks at Babbages (they had an Amiga set up to play Lemmings and LucasFilm Games demos!) and whatever comics / gaming stores were around back then, or wasting quarters at Tilt. PS: Terminator 2’s mall sequence was probably filmed not too far from one of these scenes, around the same time.

(Via)

June 30, 2009 permalink

Spongebob Guru MTV Promo

This new series of promos by Pepper Melon reminds me of the good ol’ days when MTV was running experimental stuff like Liquid Television and the more subversive late-night blocks of animation with Ren & Stimpy, MTV Oddities, The Maxx, and The Brothers Grunt (maybe not so much that last one…). If Cartoon Network’s ditching cartoons, maybe the more artful ones can migrate back to MTV (which stopped caring about the M part of its name way before most Spongebob watchers were born anyhow, as the cliche goes). See the rest at Cartoon Brew.

Pagination